Review: Columbinus, St Bride's Centre
Columbinus *** St Bride's Centre
POWERFUL and compelling, random ACT's production of Columbinus at the St Bride's Centre is a chilling reminder of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, just 11 years ago.
There is no doubting the strength of the material that director John Naples-Campbell has found for the young, eight-strong company. Nor is there any doubting its ability to leave its audience moved.
Columbinus uses a canny mixture of dramatisation and verbatim theatre to get into the hearts and minds of the students who were in the school library, where the majority of the deaths took place.
The drama comes out in a first-half depiction of a collection of American high-school stereotypes. From the similarities of their morning rituals, to the unique personality each takes on through their clothes and tastes, then back to the similarities of their inner fears, they clearly have more in common than they realise or would like.
The second half uses a variety of sources – videos left by the two gunmen, calls to the emergency services during the massacre and interviews with the survivors – to create a verbatim account of the fateful morning of 20 April, 1999.
As a production, this works best when it is able to let the words speak for themselves. The ensemble work of the opening scenes as the students wake up and get ready for school, or later when they hang out, worrying about who likes them or not, needs to flow a bit more.
Monologues allow the strengths of the individual performers to show.
Austin Maguire is consistently excellent as the class brainbox, while Emma Findlay recounts the first time the perfect girl in the class makes out with her boyfriend with a dispassion that accentuates the vicious reality.
The really striking note, however, is that any one of these kids could have broken down and gone on the fatal killing spree.
None is more troubled than any other, which is the most chilling aspect of a production which declares that "Why?" is the question most asked – but never offers an answer.
It soon becomes clear that Sean Quinn's Freak and Conor Mainwaring's Loner will turn out to be the real-life killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They tease out a few of the background events in the pair's friendship, but come into their own as they get closer to the day itself.
It is the recording of teacher Patti Nielson's conversation with the 911 operator that shifts the whole production round. It gives a reality to the shootings themselves, without having to be over-realistic or bloody.
This is not about recreating Columbine or engaging in moral panic, but about understanding it and its effect on the survivors. In that regard, this is horribly successful.
Run ends Friday
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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